Bad News: The long-lasting effects of gun violence — Survivors struggle with long-term trauma

A 2023 protest for a ban on assault weapons in Washington, DC. Credit: Aaron Schwartz/Xinhua, Getty Images

By Bella Isaacson, Alliance Intern from Scripps College

Epidemic is a word typically used to name an invisible virus. But it’s also been used to name the rampant gun violence that is sweeping the nation. A KFF poll found that one out of five Americans say they have been personally threatened with a gun (the figure is one out of three for Black Americans), while one out of six say they have personally witnessed someone being shot. More than half of American adults say that either they or a family member has had a direct violent encounter with guns.

Furthermore, Salon points to a recent Annals of Internal Medicine study found the long-term effects of gun violence on survivors is exceedingly worse than what meets the eye. “There is little research on mental health after firearm violence, despite the growing number of firearm violence survivors in our country,” writes Sydney Timmer-Murilo, PhD from the Medical College of Wisconsin. Of 87 adults who had been injured by guns, all experienced heightened symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

The study found that these symptoms don’t dissipate months after the shooting has occurred, according to Salon. Patients’ health-related quality of life remained poor 6 months after the incidents and stayed “well below scores reported in previous studies of both injury populations and the general population.”

Both the KFF poll and the study underscore the need to stem the spike in gun violence and why long-term care for gun violence survivors is so desperately needed. There is also a great need to better understand the mental health consequences of firearm injury and equip survivors with the tools that they need to manage symptoms and heal. 

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